Eighteen months ago, the idea of a Sunday evening Glastonbury set from the then-obscure Future Islands being so well-attended would’ve seemed in the realms of fantasy. But it’s amazing what one career-defining single – last year’s ‘Seasons (Waiting on You)’, which NME declared the best song of 2014 – and a viral video of your frontman dancing like nobody’s watching to a TV audience of millions can do for your jobbing band of synth-pop journeymen. Admittedly, Future Islands’ road from obscurity to ubiquity has come via curiosity: for many of the people here, it’s Herring’s chest-thumping, pelvis-wiggling antics that are the main attraction, rather than the music itself. Future Islands won’t care about that, however: by this point, they know that it doesn’t matter why people come, only that they leave as converts.
From the moment Herring walks onstage, it’s impossible not to warm to him, thanks to his sanguine Southern charm and penchant for absent-mindedly dropping F-bombs, even though the BBC – who are filming the set – have asked him to tone it down. When he falls over on his backside at the end of opening track ‘A Dream of You and Me’, it might deflate the song’s sense of melodrama, but it’s awfully endearing – and if there’s anything a Glastonbury crowd can relate to, it’s being unafraid to look a bit daft in front of large groups of people.
Herring spends much of the hour-long set dancing like a drunk attaché from the Ministry of Silly Walks, and his enthusiasm is infectious: ‘Seasons’ doesn’t arrive until much later in the set, but long before that, somewhere between the gut-wrenching ‘Long Flight’ and ‘A Song for Our Grandfathers’, this performance becomes something special. “It’s been a long road, and we appreciate the love,” Herring tells the crowd before new single ‘The Chase’, reminding them that today is the 991st show of the band’s career. “There’s nothing you get out of this fucking world unless you work hard. I tried to tell my parents they were wrong, but they were fucking right.” Hard work has undoubtedly been important for Future Islands. But having moves like Herring’s certainly helped.